Conservative Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.) said Wednesday he might run for Speaker if a "viable alternative" to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) does not emerge.
"If there is no viable alternative [to Pelosi], I will be running for Speaker of the House," Shuler said during a debate with his Republican foe Jeff Miller on WWNC Radio, the Ashville Citizen-Times reported.
The statement from the second-term congressman, a former college football star who played as a pro with the NFL's Washington Redskins, is another sign of Pelosi's unpopularity among centrist and conservative Democrats, many of whom are facing tough reelection contests.
With his statement, Shuler became the sixth incumbent Democrat to indicate they will not vote for Pelosi for another term as Speaker. The other five are Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.), Jim Marshall (Ga.), Gene Taylor (Miss.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Jason Altmire (Pa.)
Eight Democratic candidates have also said they won't support Pelosi if they are elected to Congress.
Throughout the campaign, Miller has attempted to tie Shuler to Pelosi, saying he votes with her a vast majority of the time.
Shuler's comment sparked a testy exchange between the candidates.
"You're saying you would not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker?” Miller said.
“If that's the alternative, I will be voting for myself,” Shuler replied.
“If she's there you wouldn't vote for her; you'd vote for yourself?” Miller asked.
“I don't know how I can be any clearer," Shuler replied. "I can do as good a job as anybody in the U.S. Congress, because I can actually bring people together."
Shuler's district was represented by Republican Charles Taylor from 1991-2007, but the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as lean Democratic.
This story was updated at 11:47 a.m.